Assessing Physician Barriers to Cardiac Rehabilitation Referral Rates in a Tertiary Teaching Centre

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Andrew Duncan MD
MK Natarajan
JD Schwalm

cardiac rehabilitation, CR referral,


Introduction: Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) has a proven morbidity and mortality benefit, yet rates of referral remain low. We sought to elucidate the knowledge, utilization, referral, and endorsement practices of cardiac rehabilitation in a tertiary care centre.

Methods: A 13-question survey was electronically distributed to all Internal Medicine residents, Cardiology residents and subspecialty fellows, General Internal Medicine attendings and Cardiology attendings practising in a tertiary care centre. The survey assessed the physicians’ knowledge of what CR entails, its benefits, patient eligibility and personal practices with respect to CR referral.

Results: The survey was distributed to 153 physicians with a response rate of nearly 60 percent. Compared to their medicine counterparts, Cardiology residents and staff had significantly improved knowledge with respect to what CR entails and eligibility criteria for referral (6.92 vs. 6.11 out of 9, p=0.036; 12.04 vs. 10.76 out of 17, p = 0.013). Medicine residents and staff were less likely to be familiar with CR guidelines (72.02 vs. 32.69, p<0.01), and were less likely to discuss the importance of CR attendance with their patients (43.28 vs. 71.15, p=0.0002). A higher proportion of those in Medicine also reported being unsure of both how to refer eligible patients (59.12 vs. 13.46, p<0.0001) and which patients were eligible for CR (64.92 vs. 23.08, p<0.0001). Higher knowledge scores and familiarity with CR guidelines was associated with higher self-reported referral rates. Conclusion: This survey has identified clear physician barriers, most significant among internal medicine residents and staff. These barriers can help inform interventions to improve CR referral and enrolment rates.

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